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Stowe Center Does It Right

40th Anniversary Center channels the spirit of the author

Hartford Courant

November 14, 2008

The struggling economy weighs heavily on many sectors of society, not least its heritage sites. Museums and historic homes are severely challenged. One way these important institutions can survive is to connect their historic purpose with present concerns.

Few have done this as well as Hartford's Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. The center, which comprises the stunning Gothic Revival home of the great 19th-century author and abolitionist plus two more historic buildings and Victorian gardens, just celebrated its 40th year as a public historical site.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the most influential American woman of her era, was a crusader for social justice. Embracing this theme, Stowe Center Executive Director Katherine D. Kane has developed programming on such things as slavery, urban education, civil rights and feminism.

The center's biweekly "Salons at Stowe" discussion groups have examined No Child Left Behind, literacy and hunger, among other topics. In these ways and others, Ms. Kane and her staff have creatively connected the past to the present.

The Stowe center is lucky to have an endowment that defrays some of its costs, but it also looks for new ways to raise revenue, as heritage sites must. For example, the center entered into a licensing agreement with a fabric mill to produce quilt fabric with designs taken from the house.

This kind of creative and entrepreneurial spirit is wonderful example for the many heritage sites that are vital to the state's history and quality of life. We salute the Stowe Center (HarrietBeecherStowe.org) on its anniversary. A final thought: If only we could have Mrs. Stowe's thoughts about the recent presidential election.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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